Archive for August, 2010

Copenhagen

August 29, 2010

Just a quick note to say we are in Copenhagen and have Internet access….yay for McDonalds!!!

We have escaped the ship, we really do not enjoy the time on the ship, there is only so much walking around the decks, reading and napping you can do. We did do an onboard treasure hunt to pass the time and we went to a show last night, but this morning could not come quick enough so we could get off and look around.

Catching up with emails etc and off sightseeing on the hop on hop off (hoho) bus. Next post will be from either Germany or Tallinn.

Here are some updated comments on Copenhagen, created thanks to the exceptional wifi facilities here in Tallin in Estonia.

First impressions of Copenhagen is that it is a very clean, dynamic city.  Everybody, well nearly, rides a bike.  They are ctaered for in the fact that there are separate lanes for cars, bikes and pedestrians on all the main thoroughfares.

We went to the city centre by hoho bus and then made our way to the station where we were expecting to find wifi.  However we ended up finding it in McDonalds at the station and managed to get a little done.  It was not quick enough for uploading so that has had to wait until now.

We had a very good time riding around seeing a deal of Copenhagen, but feeel as though in fact we saw little.  Would really like to return and have a good look at the city and the country as a whole.

Here are some pictures and comment.

Immediately on entering the harbour at Copenhagen one could see evidence of the nations strong commitment to windpower.  These turbines are part of a long string which reaches for some kilometres into the sea.

Bycycles everywhere

Double decker bike parking

The above shows bikes which are parked in all of the streets.  More often than not they are not chained up but are merely leaned against each other.  The double decker parking is at a rail link station where the bikes are parked!! for the day and the city has provided additional space by creating a double layer of parking.

Because the food on board has been nothing to write home about have decided to postpone the foodie comments until we actually taste some food.

In the mean time here is a selection of interesting signs, mostly because of language that we don’t understand.

Does it really mean a place to have one or buy one?

This is just interesting for the fact that he is very well represented in the city.

Oh dear how appropriate

Does not leave much to the imagination!!!

The above photo was taken in the Tycho Braho Planetarium so I doubt that it really had anything at all to do with rum!!!.  However it was a very good planetarium with great exhibits and very informative.

Tycho Brahe planetarium in background

And finally a photo of the cats that stop the rats from entering the ship while we are in harbour.

Cats gurding the ship against shore rats

Sailing away

August 28, 2010

We left Hail Weston in misty drizzle via the train to London. Hilda and Ken waved us off at the station and it seemed in no time at all we were at Kings Cross station ready to make our way over to St Pancras to catch the fast train to Dover. 55 minutes later, we were in Dover and making our way to the B&B which was conveniently located across the road from Dover Priory station.

Statue at St Pancras station

Detail at base of Statue

First experience of the fast train was very good. It took off at a good clip right from the start and maintained the pace for a large part of the journey. With only four stops to Dover it was a clear run. The interesting part was that although the train started as a an electric unit we actually pulled into Dover under diesel power. In all a very comfortable mode of travel, relaxed, smooth riding, and relatively quiet, with room to move and good seating.

Snow and Roy on the fast train London to Dover

The Dover Restover B&B had a steep flight of stairs to the front door which opened into a very narrow hallway and more flights of stairs. The owner was very pleasant and led us up two flights of stairs to our room. The room had a single bed and a very small double bed in it, with just enough room at the end of the bed to place the luggage, but not enough room to walk past. The bathroom door could be opened just enough to sidle your way in as the door was halted from opening properly by the closeness of the bed. The bathroom itself was tiny, with the toilet placed hard up against one wall, and the shower opening was just wide enough for you to get into the shower sideways. Turn on the shower and you were met with a drizzle of tepid water. Great!!!

Room at the B&B, well no room really!!

and the rest of the room

We left the B&B and walked into Dover to view the highlights of the city……hmmm, there weren’t any!!! The whole place had an air of dogearedness every second shop is a gaming room or bingo hall, we soon realized that Dover was not going to be such a great place to spend any length of time. The pubs were frequented by locals who seemed to fit into the category of unemployed, beer drinking, football jersey wearing, smoking, mullet/shaved hair, types who, as is customary in city pubs were drinking outside the pubs on the footpath, not a nice sight. The centre of Dover itself is not particularly attractive, and the constant rain did not help. After spending some time wandering the streets, finding the local library to use the internet, and getting not a little depressed with the whole outlook, we ended up having fish & chips for dinner as it seemed the other local restaurants left a lot to be desired.

Early to bed then, and up the next morning ready for breakfast. Breakfast was served in the basement of the establishment, down another two flights of a very narrow staircase, breakfast was adequate and nothing to write home about, but at least served with a smile and a cheery greeting. Whilst at breakfast we did meet one other couple, Aussies, who were also on the same cruise as us. Discussing our impressions of Dover with them, they had also come to the same conclusion, but they had dined at an Italian restaurant the previous evening where they said they were served food reheated from a packet!!! Seems as though we did well with choosing fish & chips. It was noted that the B&B only served breakfast from 7am to 8.30am and that checkout was strictly by 10am – we wonder why we had not adhered to such timing whilst at Pyb!!! It would have made life a lot easier!!

The taxi arrived promptly at 10am to take us to the cruise ship terminal, where we were quickly through customs and checked into the cruise, then a short wait until we were allowed to board at midday. As our rooms were not ready, it was straight into lunch with the hoards and a quick wander around to find out where things were on the ship. We found the library and games room where we played crib until our room was ready.

Snow and the white cliffs of Dover

Our room was a pleasant surprise in that it was at least twice the size of the room of the previous evening, with a small but very functional ensuite with a fantastic shower with plenty of hot water and pressure.

Definitely larger than the B&B room

Alexandra's bed NOT

Later we headed off to one of the restaurants for dinner, where we were seated with two other couples. After a pleasant enough dinner, we headed off to read and bed.

Day 2 at sea and tomorrow morning we will awake in Copenhagen. Yay.
Postscript:
After 24hrs on a cruise, what do we think? Well, we are bored!!! Neither of us are into this cruise stuff, we are not into drinking every 5 mins, we don’t gamble, not into disco, nor organized mind numbing entertainment etc we cannot wait until we get somewhere where we can get off and do our own thing! Only another 11 days to go.

About time too

August 26, 2010

Well it has now been several days since our last post, the reason being that we have been relaxing at Hilda and Ken’s in Hail Weston.   We left London on Monday and caught the train up to St Neots where we were picked up and went to Hail Weston.  We have now been here for some three nights and have been relaxing.

After arriving on Monday afternoon we spent time regrouping and getting up to date with washing, tidying our possessions, taking a breather and enjoying the company of Hilda and Ken.   A relatively early night was had after repacking all of our bags ready for the next step in our saga.

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny and Ken went off to golf, we stayed and continued washing and relaxing.  Roy took his early morning trot around the village and out into the country.   Isn’t it interesting how news gets around.  Passed several, mainly women, people walking dogs in the early morning.  Polite good mornings exchanged each would carry on in their respective direction.  This morning approaching two women with three dogs stopped on a corner in the High street, greeted them with the usual good morning, which was responded to, then was taken aback by one asking how was I  enjoying our holiday and wishing us all the best.  On speaking to Hilda on returning home she did not recognize the women from my description (which may say more about the description than knowledge of the women) but it seemed from the context that the word had got around.

We got the day underway, after attending to the washing,  around eleven when Hilda took us into St Neots to get a couple of things from the shops.  Surprisingly it turns out that neither Hilda nor Bernice are avid shoppers so it was a very quick trip to a couple of stores and then we were ready to come home.   However Hilda decided to show us parts of Eaton Socon which is now part of St Neots but is itself and old part of the local countryside.  We went to a place alongside the Great Ouse river and there found a lock, mooring for river craft, and a lock.  There would have been a good twelve narrow boats moored  in the marina, probably an inflated description as it was more like a blocked off part of the river with a number of floating pontoons with the craft moored to them.  As we arrived there was activity at the lock as two pleasure boats a twelve and twenty foot, inboard cabin boat pulled into the lock going downstream.  They moored in the lock and then  proceeded to let the water out of the lock to lower them down to the lower river level at the downstream end of the lock.  This was achieved by closing the upstream lock gate, then winding up a shutter on the bottom of the downstream lock gates letting the water out of the lock.  When the water was no longer flowing out of the shutter they then simply pushed the long arms on the lock gates and and opened the gates.  The boats then maneuvered out of the dock and continued down river.  A very interesting procedure to watch in real life for the first time.   And of course not captured on camera at any stage because some dodo had forgotten to grab the camera when leaving the house.  Next time we will get photos of the process.   Having exhausted ourselves watching some hard work we decided it would be a good time to stop for lunch and it just happened there was a pub at the lock in an old flour mill that was on the banks of the river.  So a short shopping trip turned into a prolonged day out when we arrived back home sometime after three o’clock.

Ken arrived home from golf an hour later having won not only his match, but his team having won the competition only losing half a point in doing so.  We then got ready to go out for an evening meal with ken and Hilda’s daughter Jackie, Husband Hossain, and son and daughter Ben and Lara.  We were greeted very warmly and immediately felt at home in a warm and generous environment.  Hossein was chef for the night and had prepared an Iranian based meal.  This was interesting to us as it involved flavours and food combinations which were new and different from those we are accustomed to. It was rather delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it all.  It was a very good evening with lots of laughs and great company.

Iranian Dinner

Dinner with Hossein, Jackie and family

Next day dawned bright and it was time to rectify the lack of photos of the lock.  Roy was up at this usual hour and after sorting emails, catching up on Facebook etc set out to walk to the lock.  half way up the hill realized he had forgotten to put out the green waste went back sorted that out and set out for St Neots and the lock at Eaton Socon.  However it turned out to be a little further than anticipated so having reached the outskirts of St Neots turned back in time for breakfast.

This day we were to meet Hilda and Ken’s other daughter Dawn in Bury St Edmunds, and visit the market there.  We set off around eleven and after an uneventful drive arrived and were warmly welcomed with tea and a range of goodies to eat.  As the day was threatening rain at Hail Weston we had brought some of the wet washing to hang at Dawn’s which we did and then proceeded to the town centre and market.   What a very interesting place.  We pulled into a car park at the bottom of the town immediately opposite the ruins of an old abbey.  The original abbey was founded in 633, various buildings had been built, destroyed, rebuilt, damaged, rebuilt, through a number of cycles culminating in the present abbey having a new tower being built for the millennium.  Work continuing to the present day on the elaborate interior and ceilings.

We made our way up the main street to the market and then wandered around looking at local produce, the usual stalls of bric a brac and interesting items.  Some of the most interesting elements were the actual building lining the streets.  These ranged in age from the early 1500’s to modern, with all time periods between.  We also found the smallest pub in England (we did not even go inside).

England's smallest pub at Bury St Edmunds

After the odd side trip and general wander we made our way to the abbey grounds and wandered around looking at the ruins before entering the cathedral and looking at the interior and seeing gilding of the new ceiling being carried out by a young man (probably in his early thirties) who was the third generation in his family  performing this type of work and whose father and family had actively been involved in the restoration of a number of major buildings both here in England and abroad.

During our tour the weather decided it was time for a shower or two and in fact the rain started in earnest,  We decided to retreat to an early dinner at a local hotel overlooking the square and cathedral.   The Angel Hotel is where Dickens apparently wrote Pickwick Papers.  We had a very enjoyable meal and then made our way back to Dawn’s house.  On arrival the washing which had been brought  to dry was found soaking wet but with a little assistance from mechanical devices was dry by the time we left after tea and coffee and conversation.  It was the home to Hail Weston and into bed.

Today we catch the train to London and then on to Dover for a night before boarding our cruise ship tomorrow.

Photos to follow as we are in rather a hurry to catch the train.

Foodie awards for the past few days:

A very good Iranian based dinner with Jackie, Hosssain and family.  All sorts of interesting  flavour combinations, very well presented in an atmosphere of family and friendship

An also ran prize to the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds for an interesting mushroom entree.  Five types of mushroom simply prepared on ciabatta with salad and a very nice dressing.

Last day full day in London (for a while)

August 23, 2010

Again a relatively quiet day,  spent the first part of the morning catching up with Blogs, photos, emails and all those other chores associated with keeping up and informed.  Then out for breakfast up the road at an outside cafe in the Covent Garden market.

First problem of the day; asked for a cup of Breakfast tea, presented with a cup  of hot water and a tea bag, bag into cup add sugar and milk, then tasted it, yuk, not very nice tasted quite perfumed must be Earl Grey, asked the waitress if there had been a mistake, “No sir I will get you another cup”, brings back new cup of hot water and tea bag, smell tea bag this time, definitely not Breakfast tea, draw it to waitress’ attention, goes away and comes back with bag from which tea bag has been obtained with Breakfast tea label,  smell bag definitely Earl Grey, say as much to waitress, she then says that there were some complaints the day before, takes bag away and returns with coffee for Bernice, says staff are now in the process of opening other bags of tea bags to see if there are any more miss labelled, then to top it all off  find the bill has “Discretionary service charge of 12.5%” added as of right!!!!!!! Good start to the day.  Although will admit that they did not prepare the scrambled eggs with a microwave.

Then a general wander about the place before making our way to the British Museum.  Spent a good two and a half  hours wandering around but really only scratched the surface. . Will have to return for a more targeted viewing.

Rosetta Stone

1.3 miilion year old hand axe

Back to The Strand to meet up with Alex on her break.  Went to Wagamama again for an early dinner late lunch.  Again a very enjoyable meal was had by all.

On the way saw a wall of portraits on alumni of Kings College, London included in which was portrait of Maurice Wilkins New Zealander involved in the disovery of the structure of DNA

Wilkins of DNA fame

Back to hotel before Roy took a final wander, ended up in Soho, don’t ask me how, then wandered slowly back home, ensuring that none of the usual streets were traversed.

Realatively early night then off to Ken and Hilda’s for a few days before the cruise.

Foodie thought:

Has to be Wagamama, consistent high quality, fast efficient service, clean, attentive knowledgeable staff.

Quiet Day

August 22, 2010

Today has been a quiet day in comparison with the past few.

Roy went off to the imperial War Museum this morning leaving Bernice at the Hotel watching the scoring in the New Zealand vs Jamaica netball test.   The museum was well worth the visit although somewhat overwhelming in places. Slight misadventures getting there  , like going in the wrong direction on the underground.   After a couple of hours returned to the North Bank and met up with Bernice and Alexandra having coffee and tea at a New Zealand cafe.  They had been getting tickets for a show this evening.  Finally deciding on Avenue Q.

Imperial War Museum

Spent some time wandering and window shopping waiting for the All Black test to start, tried getting it on p2p but no luck but then found that there was a sports bar in the Hotel so went to that.   Arrived to find that we had the wrong time and that the game had been going for half an hour.  But all was not lost and settled in to watch the game (probably the only three in the bar really interested as the rest were watching their beloved football).   Then to our dismay, a half time,  we were told by the staff that they would be changing channel to a football match notwithstanding the fact that two further screens in the bar were broadcasting football or football related channels.  A quick scurry back to the room, logon, find Radio Sport live, turn up the volume and we listened to the second half.  Great win for the All Blacks, heard but not seen.

Off to the Theatre for the show, on the way finding The Spaghetti Factory and having great meal.   Sat outside on the pavement watching the crowd go by and just generally enjoying the atmosphere.  Then on to the show.  Very unusual, risque, at times bawdy and even downright lewd, but a great take off of aspects of the Muppets.  Very enjoyable a laugh a minute and some exceptional singing especially from one of the leading ladies.  Well worth going to but a very marked contrast to the previous show.

Theatre interior pre show

After the show we walked Alexandra to Holborn Station and then made our way (without any loss of direction) to our hotel.

Foodie thought for the day

A very good al fresco dining experience for lunch, exceptional breads and fillings followed by a spectacular macaroon and citrus tart from a local Boulangerie, enjoyed quietly sitting in front of (although it is actually the rear of , but that’s another story) St Paul’s church in Covent Gardens.

St Paul's Covent Gardens

Remains of the macaroon post banquet

The Great Expotition and back to London

August 21, 2010

After a good night’s sleep in a very old room, and very large bed and the best breakfast in England so far, we set off back to London.

During our travels the day before, Alexandra raised the possibility of visiting Pooh Bridge and playing Pooh Sticks.  With some research and our DK BackRoads of England book, we found that it was in fact on our route to London (by way of a small detour).   So after  fond farewells to the Middle House, programming the GPS (and Alexandra), we set off.

Driving down country lanes we have seen lots of beautiful scenery but this was our first Squirrel.

From here whole event  turned into a major Expotition.  After finding our way to Ashdown Forest we proceeded to a car park and information centre.  There, after consulting various brochures and maps we planned our course.  Off we went,  finally after some indecision we found a carpark for Pooh Bridge with  board pointing to a track.  We were the only car in the carpark but that seemed reasonable as we were on the road fairly early.   Immediately on starting out, Alex spotted a snake basking on the path we were following.   After some excitement we managed a photo of the said creature as it was disappearing into the woods.

Snake in the woods

We followed the signs only to come out at a road we had already travelled and had found to be absent of signs for the bridge.  OK, let’s retrace and start again.  We found a track leading off the one we were originally following and not only that, it, and an official Sussex walking track sign.  Off to a great start, we then proceeded over a stile into a paddock (oops, should be field over here) with a couple of horses, over another stile then the track became confused.  Obviously we need to go downhill to a stream so using exemplary logic we followed a very well defined track down the hill.   WRONG!!!!  At the bottom we found a bridge locked off, it turned out not to be Pooh’s Bridge nor in the right place.  So back up the hill to find another branch, and we followed this to another stile.  Wise now, we decided that Roy would go ahead with Alex who was to return when we had confirmed our direction.  Around a couple of fields with horses and we came upon a show jumping and dressage practice ring.  Fortunately there was a girl riding, and we asked her for directions.  “Oh,everyone gets lost” says she “they need t0 better signpost the path. Go back to the carpark and follow the path from there” .   We are now over an hour into our Expotition with little sign of relief.   Back to the carpark.  On arriving, we find three or four more cars have turned up so feel a little less lonely. W e were just about to start out again when a couple turn up obviously returning to their car.  Question them and find that we were on the right track at the beginning and only has to walk approximately ten metres further to see the sign and the track.   So off we go again, this time with some certitude.  Came to the turnoff from the road we had travelled before, and lo a sign, at least a metre above the ground and a metre long pointing to the path entrance.   As we started down the path the owner of the property next to the path stuck up a conversation on topics directional, use of the path and finally on the small container of tomatoes she had in her hand from her glasshouse.  We were offered and accepted a couple of samples,  a small black streaked and small yellow pendulous tomatoes, both of which were delicious.  Saying our thanks we moved down what was a path at least four feet wide, and well maintained, until finally arriving at Pooh’s Bridge.   We collected some sticks on the way and had fun  for a time plaing Poohsticks.   A family arrived with grandparents, daughter, and granddaughter, and as the granddaughter was without stick Alex shared and played Poohsticks with her.  The grandfather said they had been bringing their children here for over thirty years.  He also pointed out to us the location of Owl’s house, which we visited.  We then made our way back to the car.  When we arrived, the carpark was full and there were a lot of family groups making their way to the bridge.

Playing Pooh sticks

Little Snow playing Pooh sticks

Little Snow at Owl's house, the plaque says "RNIG HERE"

We then proceeded to the shop at Pooh Corner in Hartfield for scones and clotted cream and a post card or two.

Not a lot of excitement on the rest of the journey to London and the return of the car.

We met with Fran (niece) and Clive and all went to a Spanish Tapas restaurant for dinner and lots of laughs.

Foodie tip of the day:

Definitely breakfast at Middle House , very good eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and preserves.  Everything they serve was made on the premises (excluding bacon, sourced locally) .   No prepackaged, no reheating, no microwave in sight.

Moving Around

August 21, 2010

No we have not disappeared off the face of the earth. What with travelling around and meeting lots of unknown rellies, lack of wifi points, lack of stay still time we have been a little slack, however here goes.

Tuesday:

After the last few hectic days, we thought it was time to have a slower start to the day and a much quieter day ahead. As this is pretty much peak tourist season, we have made the decision to put off going to see things like the Tower etc as we will have more time later on when things are much quieter and the queues not quite so horrendous.

Alex had kindly taken our washing home the previous night and she returned mid morning with the laundry all done for us. We headed out for the day, first stopping by the concierges desk to book tickets for a show that evening. We have to say that the concierge at the Strand Palace Hotel are amazingly helpful and friendly with nothing too difficult for them to sort out for us. It was off to the bus stop to head to the Natural History Museum. Walking to the end of the queue was a mission in itself (see photo). At this point we decided that a better course of action would be to give up the idea of any of the major museums or other attractions and defer them to later dates. Across the road is the Victoria and Albert museum and there were no queues there so in we went. Being hungry we decided on a spot of lunch sitting in the central courtyard of the V&A surrounded by stunning architecture, gardens and history – amazing!

Natural Histoty Museum queue

Courtyard where we had lunch at the V & A

We spent the afternoon wandering around this fascinating museum with Alex and Bernice taking in the Grace Kelly exhibition whilst Roy took in more of the museum. The whole experience was pretty much sensory overload as there was just so much to see and take in, we will definitely be back. There was a Quilting exhibition advertised which seemed like a good idea until on closer reading it was found to have finished at the end of July!!

Back to the hotel, this time on the tube. As part of our stay at the hotel, we were given free travel cards for the buses and the tube which have come in very handy.

As we had booked a show package, it was soon time to go straight out for dinner near the theatre, this time we were back onto the bus to head off to Charing Cross Road which also just so happens to be where a number of bookshops both second hand and new are located. Foyles has to be one of the best bookshops ever with a huge range on every topic under the sun. A quick look in the bookshop plus a couple of others and it was time to head to dinner. We had no idea where we were having dinner as it was part of the show package, but it turned out to be a fantastic Japanese restaurant named Bincho. We had a great meal of a delicious salad which had a fantastic dressing, miso soup and then a selection of 6 grilled skewers. Very filling and very delicious. Then it was just down the street to the theatre to see the Jersey Boys – the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – wow, what an amazing production. Even better that we all knew all the words to most of the songs!

Foodie highlight of the day was definitely Bincho!!!!!

Salad at Bincho

Skewers at Bincho

Wednesday

This was the surprise day of our tour, we had heard from Bernice’s cousin that there was to be a meeting of a number of the Womersley family (Bernice’s mother’s side) in Glasshoughton in Yorkshire and we just had to fit it in as it is unlikely that the opportunity will arise again. After looking at the cost of training up and back to London and then next day going down to Mayfield (Alexandra’s work place last year), it was decided a car was the way to go. Between the GPS and Alex using the iPad in the back seat and google maps we found our way to the Singing Choker in Glasshoughton. Admittedly there were a couple of instances of the driver being less than attentive to instruction, but we got there nonetheless. Immediately on entering the pub we saw Ken and Hilda and then a sea of unknown and yet vaguely familiar faces.

The Womersley descendants

There is a strong family resemblance and it was evident that a lot of the attendees weere related. There was one of Mum’s brothers, one sister and many, many, MANY cousins. Hilda had produced a very long family tree chart which allowed everyone to see where they fitted in the whole picture. A great afternoon was had by all and at the end of the day a few tears were shed. We then to headed off to Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire where cousin Hilda and her husband Ken had kindly offered to to put us up for the night. Hilda made us a lovely dinner then a good nights sleep was had by all.

Food for thought was a pasta prepared by Hilda ahead of our arrival. Good home made sauce served with care and attention.

Thursday

Roy manged to explore the ditrict at some ungodly hour of the moring returning with samples of unidentified hedgerow plants, fruit and vegetables. Again using the sat nav (overridden at times by Alex with the google maps!) we were on our way to Mayfield. Avoiding London via the ring roads, we were soon driving thru some amazingly picturesque quintessentially English countryside to arrive in the chocolate box cover village of Mayfield. Country lanes, old houses, we are staying in the Middle House in Mayfield which dates back to the 16th century – mind blowing! Some of the buildings are now resting at odd angles, roofing lines are not very straight and some houses have ther front doors literally on the street. Our room is the most gorgeous quaint room with uneven floors, crooked walls, leaded windows, and charm oozing from every corner. Intsead of a roll together bed we have a roll together room as there is a distinct floor sag into the middle of the room.

The Middle House

A stroll through the village in the afternoon took some time as it seems Alex is known by most of the locals. Every few yards we were stopped by people greeting her and our being introduced. The hospitality was over whelming from all sides young and old.

After a great meal we retired to our four poster bed, super super king sized, for a good nights sleep.

Best meal of the trip so far was that with which we were greeted last night at the Middle House. Very well prrepared and presented. Very good balance of flavours and menu composition was both varied and complementary within and across courses. Having seeen the kitchen and now sampled the output would recommend that anyne having business or visiting anywhere in the neighborhood, or just curious and wanting a good nights relaxation make a point of visiting The Middle House in Mayfield.

Back to London.

London town

August 17, 2010

After an emotional welcome at Heathrow, we headed into London on the tube to our hotel in The Strand.

We must mention the arrival.   We started well with Roy being able to tag along with Bernice through the UK line for a quick  entry.  Then to baggage claim where our bags were not among the last at this point we were given an option to walk out as nothing to declare or go through customs.  We seemed to be  the only ones who headed thru the red lane from the three flights that had just landed so they were not exactly busy.  A very pleasant young man asked us what we had to declare, we told him of the biscuits, etc and he said no problems, carry on!   Didn’t want to look, no checking, so we were quickly on our way out the other side.

Alex had found us a great hotel located right in the middle of The Strand, after lugging our bags along the streets from the tube station we left the bags at the hotel and we headed back up the road to Covent Gardens for a bite to eat and a drink and to soak up the atmosphere of the Sunday buskers.   We looked around for a wee while before heading back to the hotel for a much needed shower and change of clothes.   By this time the tiredness was catching up with us, so we said hooray to Alex whilst Roy and I hit the hay.

We woke at around 3am local time and could not get back to sleep.  By 6am we were hitting the streets looking for somewhere open for breakfast.   After wandering around we came across a cafe in Drury Lane that was open.  Let’s just say that the breakfast was a disaster, the scrambled eggs had been done in the microwave and hence had the consistency of poor quality foam rubber!!!!!  when asked for two pieces of toast and jam we were presented with two thin slices of toast that had been sandwiched together with jam between, at least it tasted of jam.  Will probably not breakfast there tomorrow.   Have developed an immediate aversion to scrambled eggs in the UK and can believe now some of those competitors in Top Chef who do not know how to scramble eggs!!!   It was back to the hotel then for a quick 10 min resting of the eye lids before Alex arrived.

We headed off on one of the hop on hop off bus tours hoping our Vancouver experience was not to be repeated.  After seeing all the highlights of London (Big Ben, Trafalgar sq, Westminster, St Paul’s etc, etc), and playing Monopoly with the street names, we hopped on a boat for a river cruise down to Greenwich.   I should mention that all morning it had been very cool and we had returned to the hotel at the end of the bus tour to pick up jackets and to have a bite to eat.  Wagamama is nearby so headed there for a really nice lunch, would recommend it to anyone.   Back to the boat in brilliant sunshine which quickly heated things up.  By the time we got to Greenwich late in the afternoon, we were feeling the affects of the sun and we had no need for jackets although we could have used some sun screen.  It was a quick turn around and back to London with Greenwich on our list of places to return to.

On our return journey to the hotel, Alex and I decided for dinner we would buy some provisions to have in our room.   Dinner consisted of carrot sticks and hummus, feta, avocados, blue Brie, ham, crackers, vine baby tomatoes, all washed down with a nice bottle of bubbly followed by fresh raspberries.  Delicious.

We realized that in NZ it would be the 17th and Mum’s birthday and we were sure she would not mind an early morning wake up call! That done, Alex left us taking our washing with her and we crashed into bed by 9.30pm.

P.S.  This time a food award for a lovely Cornish Pasty

Also just heard the great news that Riverstone Kitchen has taken the Cuisine Restaurant of the year Overall prize,  Our congratulations and best wishes to Bevan and Monique

Overall impressions

August 16, 2010

Vancouver is one place that we would like to come back to, it is clean (no graffiti), warm, friendly, stunning gardens the and trees throughout the city, beautiful people, easy to get around and apart from driving on the wrong side of the road and the light switches the opposite to ours then it would be a great place to live.

We found a lovely community garden where a gas station used to be, where locals now grow flowers, fruits and vegetables. An apartment block with a thirty foot tree growing out of a platform on the top at over twenty floors above ground level!

We have walked and walked…….so much so that have invested in a pair of very comfy walking sandals as it is too hot for shoes, and jandals, sorry flip flops, just do not cut it.

Today we have worked out that we can take the train to the airport for less than $5 for the two of us ….one of us gets a cheaper rate being a senior! ….which beats the $40 cab fare. The train was very fast and comfortable and a good way to travel. Spent the morning wandering again and having the worst breakfast ever (don’t ask). When too hot retired to the Vancouver Library a real haven and a magnificent building.

We got through to the airport in plenty of time, with only one minor hiccup. In the repacking of the bags, we thought that rather than take the carry on bag with us we would check it through so we did not have to lug it around but in all our wisdom we put all the food etc into the small bag and wouldn’t you know it? They said we could only check through one bag each! So the bag then became a carryon again. Once we got to the customs control though, of course, the tins of reduced cream were not allowed, so Roy raced back to the luggage check in and paid for the bag to be checked thru….thus making these Tins of reduced cream VERY expensive. We hope Alex appreciates them along with the 100’s & 1000’s biscuits and the chocolate mint biscuits!!!

Saw Canadian geese and have  only seen this bear and moose….tried to find a menu that offered bear, moose, cute baby fur seal, polar bear etc but failed!

We survived the flight to London, which was eventful as across the aisle was a very elderly Indian woman who after 7 hrs decided she had had enough, and wanted off. She had no English and became the wailing, head slapping, passenger from hell! They found another Indian lady who tried to placate her and translate, but she continued to wander off to annoy the first class passengers before being returned repeatedly to her seat. The poor woman who was seated next to her deserved a medal.

Next installment will be our first days in the UK.

PS today’s foodie delight is Poutine – a Canadian “delicacy”.

Friday 13th

August 14, 2010

After a great nights sleep and waking late…well, late for Roy 9am local time…..we headed out for a day of exploring Vancouver.    First on the agenda was a late breakfast, so after walking “just around the next corner” and a little later, we found a great wee spot for brunch. We had asparagus scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, rosti and slow roasted roma tomatoes accompanied by fantastic sourdough toast with homemade cherry jelly and a watermelon jam all washed down with lots of tea.  This really set us up for the day.   One of the  things that we have noticed here in Vancouver is the fantastic friendly service we have encountered at every level and it is very refreshing.

We  decided to utilise one of the Hop-on/hop-off bus services, we thought we would do the round trip, make a decision where we wanted to spend more time and get off on the next round. As usual things went differently.   After running through the city the bus took us out to Stanley Park where we were really impressed and decided that we would revisit it later in the day.  However on returning into the main street of town our bus decided it would go no further and proceeded to create a minor traffic hazard.  It happened in a shopping area so we got out and walked for what was to be a couple of blocks but turned into  several more.

We ended up at the Vancouver Library (a most impressive building and facility) where we joined in order to use the free internet service.  Met up with a couple from Auckland just outside and discussed all and sundry.  At this point our hop on/hop off became a little stressful.  The bus did not come along for some thirty to forty minutes and then proceeded at snail’s pace including a major hold up due to an accident.  We made it to Granville Island a very large Market area with all sorts of Art, Craft and Food items.  Bought goodies for dinner – pate, five varieties of olive, four varieties of breadroll, fresh strawberries; they did not make it to dinner, cheese.  Back onto the bus again for an uneventful trip back to the hotel.

All told a very interesting day with highlights and low lights.

P.S. on the trail of unusual food sign,  here’s today’s offering: